News Law and Policy

Texas Is Once Again Violating Federal Voting Rights Law, Court Rules

Jessica Mason Pieklo

A federal judge gave Texas officials 45 days to implement a new system for processing online voter registration and information.

Texas officials have 45 days to implement a new process for accepting voter registrations and changes within the state’s online driver’s license renewal portal, a federal judge ordered last week. 

The Friday ruling came in a lawsuit brought by the Texas Civil Rights Project on behalf of four Texas voters who claim their voter registration information was not updated when they went online to update their address on their driver’s license. In Texas, if a person wanted to register to vote or update their voter registration information, the state required they print out, sign, and mail in a separate form with their updated information. Attorneys on behalf of the voters argued this process violated the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), a federal law that requires state motor vehicle agencies to offer people the chance to register to vote at local branches and to use their driver’s license application or renewal form as a voter registration form. 

U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia agreed with the challengers and temporarily blocked the Texas law in April. Last week’s ruling makes that April decision permanent. 

Judge Garcia ordered Texas to change its online process by July 2018 to allow people to simply check a box indicating they wish to register or update their voter registration information when they use the state’s online portal to renew their driver’s license or change their address.

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Garcia ordered the state to submit to the court a proposed educational campaign to inform the public about the changes to the online voter registration process. Officials have two weeks to comply with that portion of Garcia’s order.

He also ordered the state to conduct monthly compliance audits until 2019 and to provide annual updates to the Texas Civil Rights Project of information on the number of voter registrations that were the result of the online process as well as any complaints the state has received about the online voter registration and renewal process.

Attorneys from the State of Texas plan to appeal the ruling to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and have asked Garcia to stay his ruling while that appeal proceeds.

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